AMD snatches Apple processor expert

AMD has snapped up ex-Apple mobile processor expert Jim Keller, hoping the engineer can bring some Cupertino-style magic to its future performance and low-power processors. Keller worked at Apple-acquired P.A. Semi as VP of design, moving to take up the reins as Apple's director of platform architecture, where he was responsible for the Apple Ax series of chips powering the iPad, iPhone and Apple TV.

"Keller will lead AMD's microprocessor core design efforts aligned with AMD's ambidextrous strategy" the chip manufacturer said today, "with a focus on developing both high-performance and low-power processor cores that will be the foundation of AMD's future products." The engineer's "innovative spirit, low-power design expertise, creativity and drive for success" will be integral in developing AMD's next-gen chips, his new boss Mark Papermaster said in a statement.

Interestingly, it's not the only AMD/Apple staff swap in recent weeks. Back in July, ex-AMD engineer John Bruno joined Apple, the man responsible for leading the development of the AMD Trinity APU which the company has staked its current range on. Bruno was originally at ATI prior to the AMD takeover, and specializes in multicore, low-power chipsets.

That area – individually low-power but collectively numerous ARM cores – has become a major threat in the processor business of late, with companies like Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and NVIDIA all looking to challenge Intel and AMD in mainstream computing such as notebooks and servers. Apple in particular has been surrounded by long-standing speculation that it plans ARM-based MacBooks in future.

AMD's interest in Keller, therefore, is likely to be tied into the chip maker's defense against that, having already admitted that it effectively ceded the smartphone processor space to rivals in instead prioritizing PCs and tablets.